PRESIDENT’S CORNER: Bravo Mwepu, Daka for EPL Moves
Twenty-four hours is a long time in football. But a week may even be longer. However, it would be a gross injustice for me to share my football thoughts this week without noting the laudable moves to the English Premiership of two of our Chipolopolo players Enock Mwepu and Patson Daka. This is creditworthy coming after Fashion Sakala was signed by Scottish Giants Glasgow Rangers. Daka has moved to 2015-16 English Premiership champions Leicester while Mwepu is now on the books of Brighton & Hove Albion. Their destinations may not be the Mecca of football but speak of the possibilities of our players breaking new grounds with hard work.
Our last players to have broken into the English Premiership albeit with little success were Collins Mbesuma who had signed for Portsmouth in 2005 while Emmanuel Mayuka signed for Southampton in 2012. It did not exactly end in glory but re-opened the doors through which Fred Mwila senior and Emment Kapengwe had opened in 1967 when they signed for Aston Villa. It has always been the desire of my FAZ administration to see Zambians plying their trade in top leagues in Europe. We have invested a lot of effort in revamping grassroots football that we consider a nursery of talent. Our junior teams from the under-15, 17, 20 and 23 have been re-activated to ensure that promising talents are groomed and regularly nurtured for possible export to foreign leagues. It is only by providing a solid foundation that our players will be adequately prepared for the rigours of international club football. Our latest exports to the English Premiership have had a steady move through the junior national ranks where they even won the under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in 2017 on home soil. We have no doubt that these moves will inspire other promising talents to work harder and aspire for greater heights in the game. It is only by having more players in top leagues in world football that we are going to have an improved national team. I have no doubt that Sakala, Daka and Mwepu will thrive in their new destinations having received enough grounding from their previous bases in Europe where they featured for KV Oostende (Belgium) and Red Bull Salzburg (Austria), respectively. Our eyes are also on the players in Sweden (Emmanuel Banda and Edward Chilufya), Poland (Lubambo Musonda), Russia (Kings Kangwa and Evans) and many others the technical bench are tracking.
Back home, the Copper Queens Olympic assignment is almost upon us in Tokyo where they play their first game on July 21 against Netherlands before facing China (July 24) and Brazil (July 27). We are confident that our girls who have been in residential camp for over three months will represent the African continent credibly.
On the Chipolopolo that is out in South Africa for the 2021 Cosafa Cup assignment, we have noted the poor start to their title defence and urged them to re-focus and represent our country honourably. They still have two more games to play, and the expectation is that the team can still salvage their campaign. On our part we have provided the team with everything they need to ensure that they succeed and expect that they reciprocate with good results. Our expectation is that the technical bench will use this tournament to gauge players that can be considered for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in September. We wish the team all the best in the final two group matches at the on-going Cosafa Cup.
Have a pleasant week and remember to observe the Covid-19 guidelines.